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Season’s greetings from third-grade electricians

Lee Elementary third-graders create their own light-up holiday cards, guided by art teacher Becky Branch 

Thornapple Kellogg — At Lee Elementary school, echoes of a familiar holiday song wafted out from inside the makerspace.

“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose,” third-graders sang to themselves while coloring pictures of the misfit Christmas reindeer on the front of holiday cards. 

But this was no ordinary card project. Art teacher Becky Branch taught the students how to make their cards light up as bright as Rudolph’s nose, or like the star on top of a Christmas tree, using LED bulbs and a simple circuit. 

“I love this project. It’s so fun,” Branch said. “We haven’t used our makerspace as much since (the pandemic), so we’re trying to give students more opportunities to be creative in the space.” 

She said she found the idea online and printed blank coloring pages on the front for students to customize. 

After each student chose a card design to color, Branch explained how to create an electrical circuit on the inside. 

“A circuit is a path,” she said. “We’re going to use copper tape to make an electricity path from the battery to our lightbulbs.” 

Branch printed a template on the inside of the cards to show the pathway for the electricity to flow.

“This line goes to the battery and this one goes to the light bulb,” third-grader CeCe Keto explained as she placed the copper tape on the designated lines.

A Lightbulb Moment

After completing the circuit, Cece closed her card to test it. When the copper strip touched the battery and the bulb didn’t light up, she investigated the problem.

Branch helped her determine that the copper lines weren’t smooth enough, so Cece patched them with tiny pieces of copper tape and cleaned up the circuit. This time when she closed the card, the yellow LED bulb poking through the star at the top of the Christmas tree lit up.

Third-grader Emerson Burke chose a red LED bulb for her card, because Rudolph has a red nose. Most of her classmates came to the same conclusion when choosing their LED bulb color. 

“It’s like when (Rudolph) revealed his nose to everyone in the movie,” one student said after watching his card light up.

As students finished their cards, they went around the room and offered to help classmates with their circuits. 

Third-grader Chance Hudson continued to sing while writing a note to his mom on the back of his card: “And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.” 

Read more from Thornapple Kellogg: 
Motion, and magnets and maps, oh my!
A judge, a meteorologist and a firefighter walk into a school

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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